Another Day…Just Breathe.

October is Healthy Lungs Month. Today, October 28, is Lung Health Day. I never gave these much thought, until this year.

Last April, I lost my Dad to a combination of many things, but the main ones being COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and ultimately, lung cancer. My Dad was a smoker for almost 50 years.

I love my Dad, and I miss him everyday, but he did not take care of himself, no matter how many times we asked him to. Sometimes, with enough urging (and some yelling) he would try to do better. But he always seemed to eventually go back to his old ways. “I’ll do what I want” seemed to be his mantra. You don’t get the nickname “Wild Bill” for nothing.

Me and Wild Bill, cowboy hat and all.

Me and Wild Bill, cowboy hat and all.

My Dad was stubborn (just like his daughter) and he lived his life the way he chose to and by his own rules. In many ways, I admired that quality in him, and hope that I, too, can live my life they way I see fit, and not how anyone else tells me I should. There were some times though that I just wish he would have taken the advice of others, mainly regarding his health.

There are two major things my Dad taught me (in addition to learning how to drive): always be yourself no matter what or who says otherwise, and to take care of your body. Sadly, I had to learn the second one by watching him do the exact opposite and slowly suffering over time. Sometimes I think I didn’t try hard enough to get him to do better. Sometimes I think he must not have cared enough about me to do better. Sometimes I realize that there was nothing I could do and he did the best he could. And it had nothing to do with me.

As I mentioned, I have worked hard to take care of myself. I never smoked (ok, I did once in my best friend’s backyard in high school but that was it, I swear). I hardly drink. I watch what I eat (to a fault sometimes). I work out in some way every day and have for the past 17 years. I’ve run 6 half marathons and countless other races. I do yoga. I think about my life and how precious it is. I try not to waste a single second (I don’t always succeed, but I am forever trying). In a way, I have my Dad to thank for this. It’s not the happiest motivator – but I do believe he was very proud of me, and hopefully he knew how much that meant to me.

Thanks, Dad.

Thanks, Dad.

Although my Dad was too stubborn to accept any help, I’d like to think that there are many others out there who can still be helped, and that maybe, just maybe, I could help them. Not only do I have a passion for treating myself right, but I’m even more passionate about helping others to live better. So for National Lung Month, I’d like to tell everyone to get out there, get moving, and keep breathing. Check out some online resources (and there are many), like Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, to learn more about lesser known dangers to lungs like asbestos which is known to cause a rare cancer called mesothelioma, and most importantly, spread the word. We can all live better, if we work together.

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Be excellent to each other.

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Think of All the Things You CAN Do.

The other day, I was complaining (again) about not being able to run. The whole tendonitis thing was really getting to me, and I was wallowing in a sea of “why me?”, until a friend said these words to me:

Think of all the things you CAN do.

So, I did.

I can take a cycling class. So the next morning, I took one at the gym. I can use the good old elliptical machine. So, I rocked out a 7 miler. I can do do yoga. I can swim. I can still ride my bike. I was already doing these things, but for some reason it didn’t matter. I was stuck on the one thing I couldn’t do.

Wah.

Wah.

Getting stuck is the worst. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’re stuck until you become unstuck. And more often than not, it’s the words of an outside observer that gives you that push to unstick yourself.

Besides all these things things, I began thinking about all of the things that I CAN do that I don’t spend nearly enough time appreciating: I can see; I can hear: I can smell, touch, and taste. I can work. I can think. I can write. I can dream. I can love.

TLF.

Wedding bliss.

Wow. There are a ton of truly amazing things I CAN do. Not only am I thankful for all of these things, I’m thankful to the wonderful friend who pointed it out to me.

Besties.

Besties.

Gratitude really can make all the difference. No more wallowing. I have absolutely no reason to. The world is too good for it.

With that being said, I think I’ll spend the rest of the afternoon doing one other thing that I can do, and pretty well at that – bake a pumpkin spice cake. 🙂

You do what you must do, and you do it well.

You do what you must do, and you do it well.

Enjoying the thing you are doing.

woods

The other day, I was driving to work, and I started thinking about leaving. Not leaving home or my job or my husband. No – about going out to things that I was really looking forward to and thinking while I’m there about leaving. I started to wonder why that happens. And what I can do to prevent it from happening in the future. Granted, sometimes you go somewhere and you really are not having a good time, or it wasn’t quite what you thought it would be, and you legitimately want to leave. But other times, I just feel like leaving for no reason. Ask my husband about my weird desire to leave concerts/sporting events/shows at least 30 minutes before the end (sometimes more). Sometimes I even feel this way when I’m the one PERFORMING the concert! I guess I just start thinking about all the other things I have to do; about how long it will take me to get home; about what time I have to wake up the next day; about how and when I’m going to fit in a run. The worst part is that these are not awkward/weird/unpleasant events. These things are FUN! I should be enjoying myself!!! So then why do I often want to leave? I made a conscious decision at that moment: to get to the bottom of this, and to no longer want to leave.

In order to do this, I started thinking about the things I’ve done that I never wanted to leave – those events and occasions that you just wish would stretch on into the wee hours of the morning and then some. What about those things was different? Some involved my husband and when we first met. Ok, that makes perfect sense – that new love and all the excitement and butterflies that come with it. I won’t count those things for now. But what other events did I wish would never end? I remembered back to a Peter Gabriel concert in 2002. It was an amazing show, and I could have sat there and watched him all night. I remembered a concert from high school where I played Eponine from Les Miz and I did not want that performance to end. I remembered pretty much every gig with my old band Sonic Girl, and I never wanted any of them to end. I remembered my wedding day. I remembered a Gillian Welch concert, also some time around 2002. I remembered pretty much all of my classes in Pastry School. I remembered laughing with a couple of friends all night about random things that no one else would think were funny (like how old Ben Franklin would be if he were alive today). I remembered playing and camping at the Newport Folk Festival in 2004.

from our campsite in Newport.

from our campsite in Newport.

So what do all of these things have in common? For starters, they seemed magical. There was some kind of magical energy at each of these events that made me wish they would never end. But I think it’s more than that. All of these events had two things in common which made them “magical.” Two thing that have to occur in order for me to wish they would go on forever:

1. They are things I am passionate about

2. I have to be fully present

I HAVE TO BE FULLY PRESENT. Sure, being passionate about it is also important, but I could be enjoying so much more in life if only I allowed myself to be fully there to enjoy it! That’s the key. To allow myself to actually enjoy these things while they are happening and not spend my time thinking and worrying about the next thing. Every event can be magical in a sense, if we let it be.

This weekend, I went camping. I  hadn’t been camping in many years, because last time – you guessed it – I wanted to leave. This time, it was different. I wanted to stay. I wanted to breathe the air and enjoy the trees and watch the fire. It was relaxing. It was fun. And i never once wanted to leave.

who would want to leave this??

who would want to leave this??

I’m sure there will be times and events that I will want to leave. But I promise to try my darndest to be there and enjoy each moment as it’s happening from now on. It’s gonna take some time, and some practice. But it’s definitely going to be worth it.

My iPhone Died; I Lived.

Last week, my coveted iPhone 5C fell out of my purse, complete in its trendy little phone pouch. It apparently landed near the front door of my car in the parking lot of my gym, and remained there for some time, in the rain, until a good Samaritan spotted said abandoned trendy pouch, and brought it to the front desk inside the gym. I didn’t realize it was even missing until my workout was over an hour later, and it was nowhere to be found. I searched my purse, my locker, my car, around my car, my gym bag, but to no avail. I began tossing things frantically around inside the car, and then thought I’d check the front desk, just in case. Sure enough, it was there, still in the pouch! Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers!

this photo is only a representation and not my actual phone.

this photo is only a representation and not my actual phone.

But alas, upon further investigation, the pouch was utterly soaked, and the phone….well it was non-functional. The screen sort of lit up, but nothing was happening. I walked back to my car, busted phone and soaked pouch in hand, completely dejected. The second the car door closed behind me, I began uncontrollably sobbing. So much so, that I could barely breathe and I could barely see, and I’m not sure how I made it home. I walked in the door, hysterical by this point, and my fiance quickly snatched the phone and threw it into a bag of rice. He then informed me that I’d be without my phone for – at the very least – the next 48 hours.

48 HOURS!!! WITH NO PHONE! The world had officially ended. The rest of the night was ruined and I just sat there sulking, thinking about how stupid I was to let the phone fall out of my purse, and how much it was going to cost me to buy a new one. Not to mention I would not be able to communicate with the outside world or do anything until I had a phone again. Life, as I knew it, had ceased. I’d never be happy until I had the phone back.

Oh how very wrong I was.

The next day, I woke up, and thought, hmmm..maybe I can find a replacement phone on ebay. I also realized that I could sell my old phone and make up some of the costs for a new one. So I listed it right then. As the day went on, and I was phoneless, I started slowly realizing that I didn’t need the phone as much as I thought I did. Losing the phone was NOT the end of the world – in fact, it was just the beginning.

I wasn’t constantly looking for updates. Instead, I was talking to people to find out what was going on with them. I noticed things in the house that I could work on, instead of having my head down staring at a little screen. I stopped feeling stressed about social media – who “likes” me and who doesn’t. WHO CARES??! I actually wound up putting off doing anything about the phone for a whole week because, frankly, I was enjoying the freedom of not living under it’s iron (or plastic) thumb.

I did however realize that I needed some sort of device where I could be reached by my family and my job at the very least, so a week to the day later, I took the still-broken-but-making-some-noises iPhone to a repair shop called Steve’s iPhone Repair, and had it fixed in under 30 minutes and for only about $100. If you live anywhere close to South Jersey and have a busted iPhone, you should definitely pay him a visit.

44 texts and 4 phone calls. That’s what I missed. But no one was upset, my life wasn’t over, the internet didn’t stop without me, and my life certainly didn’t stop without it. My work and my family had alternate ways to reach me if it was an emergency, and everything else, well, it really could wait. I didn’t get lost driving around without WAZE, I just planned ahead. I didn’t need the camera to take pictures – I used my real camera which takes better pictures anyway.

the "real" camera actually works better. who'd 'a thunk?!

the “real” camera actually works better. who’d ‘a thunk?!

The week without a phone reminded me of all the possibilities, beauty, and fulfillment that is out there all around us every single day, if we just…look up. I promised myself that once the phone was fixed, I would not become a slave to it’s tiny screen, offering instant gratification and momentary pick-me-ups ever again. The good stuff is out here, not in there.

My phone may have died, but I am more alive then I’ve been in quite some time. And I’m so grateful for that.

 

Good Books Come to Those Who Wait.

 

books

Every so often, I feel the desire to write about something other than baking – a small indulgence of a different kind, so to speak. Today, is just such a day. Today’s topic: books.

I have this theory – I believe that the right book finds its way to you at the right time. Whether it be a gift, something left on a table in the doctor’s office, something you happened to notice one day on your own shelf that you never gave a second glance to before….however it happens, it’s like a light goes off when you see it, and you just know this is the next book you must read. When this happens, I find I better get right to it and start reading because whatever is in this book is something that I really need. And it has not let me down yet.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, this happened again. This time, the book was intended for someone else, but due to extenuating circumstances, was not given to the person it was initially intended for, and wound up being given to me, instead. As soon as it was placed in my hand, I knew it had to be the very next book I read. For the next week or so, I kept carrying it around, thinking I was going to start it. Then, after a somewhat tough day, I finally opened it and began reading.

I finished it two days later – this afternoon, to be exact. I laughed. I cried (a lot). I related to it and the characters. But most of all, I learned something about myself when I had finished – something I needed to learn in order to get to the next chapter of my own story. And to the next book.

Everything happens for a reason. Everything is connected. What we do everyday not only changes our own lives, but changes the lives of every person we come into contact with – and sometimes those we don’t. We find the things we need, if we only open our eyes and look around us. Life is a gift – a wonderful, exciting, scary, emotional, roller-coaster of a gift. I’m sure the author of this book, or of all the other books that have changed me, did not ever think they would have such an effect on a random individual so far removed from them in time and space. Yet, that is precisely what happened. We all are part of each other.

our real-life bookshelves.

our real-life bookshelves.

Thank you, friend, for giving me this book. Thank you author, for writing this book. Thank you world, for my place in it. I can’t wait for the next book. 🙂

Living, Loving, and Giving Thanks.

Like many others, I was thinking tonight about all I am thankful for. There is much – very very much. More than ever before, I reckon. There are a number of reasons why this is so, from being more aware, to being more open, to giving more of myself – to name a few of the biggies. However, when I think about what I’m most thankful for, one thing comes to mind – and it may come as a surprise to many people. But if it were not for this, I would not be who I am today.

I am thankful for having my heart broken.

Since this fateful event a year and 8 months ago, I believe I have learned more about myself than I had in the 35 years leading up to that day. I learned that being alone is not the same as being lonely. In fact, the opposite is true – it took being thrust unexpectedly into being alone to finally free me of feeling lonely. It allowed me to let people in – really let them in – which was something I could never do before. Sure, I had lots of friends, and some of them I even considered close – but I often felt that they never really knew me. Thanks to my broken heart, I finally was able to share the “real” me with others. And it has made all the difference.

I made a conscious decision to never let my heart close again – to keep sharing, and growing, giving (and forgiving), learning, and most importantly, loving.

I’m thankful everyday for the pure joy of being alive; and for all the friends and loved ones I have the honor of sharing this with. You’re all in my life for a reason, and for that I’m eternally grateful and unquestionably lucky.

And even though in my old age I’ve become more of a Buddhist than a Catholic, I would like close this post with my favorite quote from the Bible – something that’s gotten me through many tough days, and maybe will do the same for some of you – good old Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone. My world is a better place because of you. 🙂